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National Mortgage Professional
Aug 21, 2008

Mortgage technology and beyond: Pruning and planningJohn D. Svirskyinternet, technology, multiple listing services Last week, I went without an Internet connection for two hours. I felt like a junkie without his fix, an alcoholic in need of a drink, a foodie needing the next donut; actually, like all three combined. In other words, I was crazed. Has this ever happened to you? Worse yet, my bookkeeper came to the office the other day hysterical; her Microsoft operating system would not let her into her computer. No matter what she did, the computer, with a mind of its own, would not accept her password. Mind you, she has more than 40 clients and all of her data was on that computer. Do you back up your data regularly? You will be surprised how many people don't. Do you have a plan if your computer crashes? Most of you who have read my columns for the last 15 or so years (truthfully, I have lost track) have come to know me as a techie. I love to try out new software and share the tools that I use in my own mortgage brokerage business. This month, I want to share with you two basic fundamentals of good business habits: pruning and planning. Maybe I should have started this article, "Hi, I am John, and I am addicted to technology." Now you say, "Hi, John"that way, I don't feel alone. Believe it or not, it is not the technology that interests me. I view computers, cell phones, Blackberries and Treos as electronic servants. I view technology as a tool, as a means to an end. In principlewhen it worksit makes me so efficient that I do more in one day than it used to take a week to do. I have been a mortgage broker since 1980. I remember when a residential mortgage loan could legitimately take eight to 12 weeks to close, and three months before all of the verifications were in by snail mail. Appraisals did not have multiple listing services or the appraisers were not able to look in their computer database for comparable salesthey had to go to the town hall. Well, you get the idea. Getting a Fannie or Freddie approval in five minutes seemed like something from another world. That world is today's reality. This market is tough (I usually use a more graphic word). The new-agers and the professional motivators call it challenging. That is true; this market is definitely challenging. I have lost repeat clients because brokers out there are basically working for free. I have heard quotes that are below my cost. There are a lot of companies just trying to maintain overhead and aren't worried about profits. For the rest of us who love helping others but also like to be paid for our servicesafter all, a servant is worth his laborit is time to step aside and map out a new strategy. For those of you who have gotten this far into the article, that is what we are going to do now. This weekend, I was pruning some lilac and verbena bushes in the garden. They had provided wonderful color and outstanding scents for weeks. Now the show was over. I could just leave the dead flower heads on the bush, or I could prune them. By pruning the dead flowers and actually cutting back the bush, it permitted the plant to focus on new growth and not spend energy on what was beautiful last week but is gone today. Nature is so smart. Many times while I was up on the ladder, I cut the dead flowers thinking that I had gotten them all. It was only after I got off of the ladder and stepped aside that I could see what I missed. Sometimes, I need to step outside of my business to see what is going on, to reevaluate. And sometimes, it is good to do nothing but wait. Being in the business as long as I have, I have lived through many down marketshell, I started when prime was 21 percent. I remember saying back then that it could only get better, and of course, it did. One thing that I have found is that most of the down markets have not lasted more than 18 to 24 months. It is the financial world's way of weeding out mortgage brokers and seeing who is really serious about this business. It also forces each of us to clarify our plans and how we intend to survive during this period of shakeout. This is what I am doing. For many months now, I have been writing articles about the value of education. There are many phenomenal seminars out there. I have attended several and encourage you to do the same, because I wanted to give myself the tools to succeed where others would not. I have found one thing that is consistently true: the most successful mortgage brokers, just like the most successful athletes and artists, are always honing, practicing and improving their skills. We mortgage brokers need to do the same. One way is by taking advantage of some of the wonderful courses out there. Many of the lenders offer free educational seminars using one of the myriad of educational speakers. It is a real good idea to go. Each time I do, I learn something that I then apply. Since Business Plan 2006, LoanToolbox's seminar in early December 2005 ("Mortgage Technology and Beyond ... Business Plan 2006, The Mortgage Press, November 2005), I have been finessing my techniques in time management. David Allen's book "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" and his follow-up book "Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life" are life-changing books. I have been shocked at how much time I actually waste each day because I have not been clear about my focus and have not utilized my time in an efficient manner. One of the simplest and most important concepts is to leave your e-mail inbox empty at the end of the daywow! Using Outlook templates helps organize the flood of e-mail messages I receive into categories so that I am not spending hours each day just reading and reacting to e-mail. For example, I have set up rules that sort incoming e-mail into one of several folders within Outlook: "Deals," "Non-Business," "Items for Weekend Review," "Items Waiting for Someone Else's Action," "Phone Calls," "Errands," etc. Also, by creating folders such as "Immediate Action," "Pending Actions" and "Stuff That Can Wait," when I have downtime, I can go to the respective folder and work on them. The one that really helped me manage my time was "Weekend Stuff." All of the various e-mail messages that involve reading, newsletters and stuff that looks interesting but has no immediate value to my business day, I save for the weekend. What a difference this makes. Just follow this one tip and you will see the difference immediately. Another important book to read is "Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople" by Todd Duncan, which drills home the importance of having an assistant or letting others handle the support duties while you do the work that brings in the money. In another of his books, "The Power to be Your Best," Todd talks about something that resonates with meliving a balanced lifestyle. The truly successful mortgage broker also has a home life, a personal life, a spiritual life, etc. I live by that philosophy, and Todd shows you how to do it. Many of his graduates have gone on to do more than $100 million a year following this training. Imagine being home for dinner each night and still doing your personal best volume. Todd's training and seminars are outstanding. I have been to several, and I have never been disappointed and have always left feeling inspired and pumped." Another book, which has become all the rage, is Douglas R. Andrew's "Missed Fortune 101: A Starter Kit to Becoming a Millionaire." Superstars like Stephen Marshall have taken Andrew's course and have changed their already very successful mortgage careers by cross-selling insurance with the mortgage as a financial instrument. They use The Mortgage Coach to demonstrate how leveraging the mortgage and putting the difference into some form of annuity or other financial instrument provides more equity for the borrower after five, seven or 10 years than if they had just paid down their mortgage or made a larger down payment. All of the education is wonderful. All of the seminars and books can really motivate and inspire. But without action, there is no food on the tablefaith without action is dead. I want to encourage youand I will be doing the sameto use the summer to step aside from your business. Do what nature intended, which is to take some time for rest and relaxation and to do things outside of the mortgage business. Allow the mind, body and spirit to be replenished and recharged. That way, when September comes, we can be refreshed for the final quarter of the year. I will be asking myself questions such as: "What aspects of the business do I enjoy doing? What aspects do I not like? "Is there anyone in the industry doing something that I wish I was doing? "Who is making the money that I want to be making? What is he doing that I am not? "Who lives the life and lifestyle that I would like? "Is there anyone, alive or past, that I can take as my mentor? What would they do in my situation? The most important point is not a question, but a statement from the master himselfWilliam Shakespearein a scene from Hamlet. It is when Polonius gives his son Laertes advice before he departs, stating, "This above all: to thine own self be true." We will have plenty of time to get back to technology reviews in the coming months, but the best advice that I intend to follow is Polonius'. For each of us in our own way are about to start a new journey into untapped and uncharted territorya much more defined and challenging marketplace where just waiting for the phone to ring and then saying "I provide service" just won't cut it. Many mortgage brokers just won't cut it and will be in new professions by this time next year. Take the time now to do more than just plantake the time to think, to be inspired, to relax and to see a new future. Every gardener must first plan the garden before planting the first seed. Enjoy the summer, and I will talk with you next month. John D. Svirsky has been a mortgage broker for 24 years, doing both commercial and residential mortgages. He is also a volunteer firefighter, avid cigar enthusiast and cook. He may be reached by phone at (845) 424-3388 or e-mail john@svirsky.com.
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